Iraq

Camp Taji: Inside Saddam Hussein's Tank Graveyard

The camp was once home to Saddam Hussein’s personal army, a vast, secret place where the Iraqi military weapons and repaired tanks.

Located 27 kilometres north of Baghdad in the area known as the Sunni triangle is Camp Taji.

The camp, which is now a key base for the fight on Islamic State (IS), is still bearing the scars of its controversial past.

Camp Taji was once home to Saddam Hussein’s personal army, a vast, secret place where the Iraqi military manufactured weapons and repaired tanks.

The camp is a far cry from what it once was, but a graveyard filled with thousands of tanks and vehicles from the Saddam Hussein-era stretch as far as the eye can see. 15 years after the US invasion, it is all that remains of Saddam’s military dream.

Among the rusty vehicles, there are dozens of French-built self-propelled guns. 

Iraq took delivery of 85 of these in the mid-1980s and they saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, but the arms embargo imposed after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait meant the supply of spares dried up and they were mothballed.  

Today, Camp Taji hosts up to 3,000 coalition troops but around eight years ago, the thought of British and American troops on this soil was an impossibility. 

It's one of, if not, the biggest military camps in Iraq.

Grenadier Guard at Camp Taji
British troops have been in Iraq in a non-combat role since 2014.

Sprawling over 13 kilometres, the camp is within striking distance of Ramadi and Fallujah –  two towns at the centre of the insurgency.

In 2018, the camp again has a vital role in conflict but this time on the fight against IS, also known as Daesh. 

In the summer of 2014, Iraq's future looked perilous.

IS controlled swathes of the country and were closing in on capital city Baghdad. The Iraqi forces were well equipped and numbered 200,000 men but faced with a new, blood-thirst enemy, four Divisions collapse.

Three years after they left Iraq - British troops returned in a non-combat role. Part of nations sent in to urgently rebuild and retrain Iraq's dented army. 

A bed at Camp Taji.
A bed at Camp Taji.

Currently deployed at Camp Taji are the Grenadier Guards on Operation Shader - the UK's contribution to fighting IS. 

For soldiers at the Camp, they all live in portacabins - basic but most importantly air conditioned, so they can escape the searing Middle East heat.

There hasn't been an attack on Camp Taji for a long time and risk levels do remain relatively low.

However, soldiers and personnel are still required to wear body armour and helmets, just in case.

Travelling through Camp Taji.
Travelling through Camp Taji.